Palo Alto City Council approves $2 million for chambers improvements

A report to City Council from City Manager Jim Keene says that one current problem in the council chambers is the glare on a screen used for showing graphics during council meetings. Illustration is from the city manager's report.

This story was originally printed Dec. 19 in the Daily Post.

Daily Post Staff Writer

The Palo Alto City Council has approved a nearly $2 million upgrade for its chambers, despite Councilman Greg Tanaka saying that there are less costly ways to get the work done.

“This is an incredible waste of money, we could do the same thing at a fraction of the cost, this is not a good use of city money,” Tanaka said before casting the only no vote for the revamp on Monday (Dec. 17).

A plan to upgrade the chambers appeared to have died in May, when council’s Finance Committee canceled its funding. The move eliminated a criticism that might have been made of the three incumbents running for re-election in November — Eric Filseth, Tom Dubois and Cory Wolbach. Right after the election, the nearly $2 million proposal was revived, and received its final approval on Monday.

Most of the money will go toward improving the technology in the council chambers, such as new video projectors and TV cameras. But some of the money will go toward a new dais and a lecturn that moves up and down to adjust to the height of the speaker.

Tanaka was critical of the technology the city planned to use. For instance, he said that instead of screens mounted to the dais, council members could do “a lot more” with iPads or laptops.

He also was skeptical of the idea that the city needed to upgrade its TV broadcasting system in the chambers, saying the city could accomplish the same thing by using Facebook Live or YouTube to stream meetings.

He pointed out that fewer people are watching traditional broadcast TV and more people are watching programs streamed via the Internet.

Four-phase project

According to a report to council from City Manager Jim Keene, the upgrade will be completed in four phases.

Phase I, costing $250,000, includes replacing the council members’ screens and system that allows them to vote or request to speak.

Phase II would cost $750,000 and include upgrades to the broadcast system with modern digital cameras, and captioning and other infrastructure.

Phase III, which would cost another $750,000, includes an upgraded base audio system with speakers and wireless microphones, a dual screen and projector system, a broadcast lighting system, an audio-visual control system for upgraded equipment, skylight glare reduction film and motorized shades and the demolition and infill of the existing rear projection glass wall.

Phase IV includes improvement of the system KZSU-FM 90.1 uses to air the meetings. The final stage also calls for adding glare reduction film on the windows as well as blackout shades.


  1. Didn’t council push the $5 million remodel of the City Hall lobby on the last meeting before a summer vacation a few years ago? As I recall it was on the Consent Calender too. Funny how they avoid talking to the public when they’re lavishing money on themselves.

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